My Brothers Keeper
By Tim Powers
- My Brothers Keeper
Author: Tim Powers
Publisher: Ad Astra
- ISBN: 9781035903900
- Published: October 2023
- Pages: 320
- Format reviewed: Hardback
- Review date: 16/10/2023
- Language: English
The stories that the Brontë sisters wrote have an extreme gothic appeal and you only need to visit their old home in Haworth to know what inspired them. There did not seem much else to do than walk the moors and avoid dying. Whilst the town may be picturesque now, full of cobbled streets and Hovis adverts, back in the days of the Brontës people died a lot from cholera including several of the sisters. It did not help that they built the drinking well downhill from the graveyard. Tim Powers suggests that it may not be tainted water that is the reason for the deaths, but a family curse that involved cults and werewolves in My Brother’s Keeper.
On the landing of the Brontë family home stands a portrait of three of the sister, Anne, Emily, and Charlotte. Behind them stands a shadowy figure, this is Branwell, the artist and their brother. Why did Branwell paint over the image of himself? Was it the shame he felt for the drinking and inability to keep a job down to provide for the family? Or is it something more sinister? It may have not been a clever idea to make a blood sacrifice at a fairy gate with two of your sisters as a child.
I have been to Haworth, seen the Brontë house and a version of Branwell’s portrait, it is a creepy and arresting image and one that could easily inspire a work of gothic fiction. Powers is not just a gothic writer, but an author of gothic horror. We go beyond madwomen in the attic and angry men on the heath and into a world of ghouls, werewolves, and the occult. The world of the Brontës and the supernatural feel like natural bedfellows the way that Powers writes them.
To make the book work, Powers needed to create a realistic feeling Brontë setup. The author uses historic reality and twists it. We know a lot about the family, and you can see in their upbringing many of the influences on their work. All Powers is suggesting is that there was more we do not know about. Keeper is not a book that is shy about leaning on the supernatural. The interesting part is the way that the Brontë sisters take to it like ducks to water. Emily takes it in her stride and looks for practical solutions. In a world where you mother and two of your sisters have already died, death is always close. The Brontë’s often pondered what was beyond and in this book spent their youth making up stories about magical realms.
The story of Keeper feels like the natural progression from these childhood fantasies into reality. There are dark forces working together to take down the Brontë family. Can Emily and her sisters lift the curse and save their brother? The backstory is in depth and full of cults, the supernatural and red herrings. It has the feel of a good Sherlock Holmes tale, but the supernatural is real.
I am not a scholar of the Brontë sisters or their work, so I cannot attest whether their voices sound right, but the book feels like a period piece. The speech patterns, the social structures etc, place the story in the right time and place. The book will be of a passing interest to fans of the Brontës’ work, but really it is a novel for fans of gothic horror. Basing the story around historic people gives it a grounding. Few people will imagine where Powers is about to take them.
Written on 16th October 2023 by Sam Tyler .